So you’ve finally scored an interview. Congratulations! Now comes the tricky part… turning it into a job offer. Interviews, in general, are far from enjoyable for most job seekers, but when you’re making a career change, they can feel much more daunting because you have no idea about how things are done in the new field you’re moving into. That’s where we come in, because we know that there’s nothing worse than getting prepared for the big day and blowing it on an interview mistake that has nothing to do with your ability to do the job. Or even worse, finding yourself unable to convert interview after interview into a job offer, but having no idea where you’re going wrong. So, without further ado, here are the top 10 job interview mistakes that may be stalling your job search.
Attending an interview without knowing the lowest salary on offer for the position
Competitive, DOE. These are two terms that can spark fury in any job seeker. Companies are becoming increasingly cagey these days and playing their cards close to their chest in order to get employees at the cheapest salary possible. However, don’t allow your eagerness to land a dream job to distract you from the one thing that defines a job: money. Always find out exactly how much is on offer and only go to the interview if it’s an amount that’s acceptable to you.
But what if a recruiter or employer asks you to name your price? That’s where our next point comes into play.
Giving your actual salary expectation when asked
When we asked a group of HR experts how salaries are negotiated by companies, all of them agreed that it’s standard practice to meet or undercut any salary figure given by a potential candidate. With this in mind, stack the odds of getting the salary you want in your favour by always naming a slightly higher figure than the actual salary you’d settle for. Best case scenario? You’ll get it. Worst case? They’ll offer a lower figure that’s in line with your true expectations.
Tip: Avoid the temptation to go much higher than the market average. You may think “Ah it’s worth asking – you don’t ask, you don’t get”, but be careful. Making outrageous salary requests could cost you a job you really want – not because of the money, but because it suggests that you have no idea about the realities of working in that field. If you’re not sure what the market average is, check out salary checkers on sites like Payscale, Glassdoor and Indeed for salary figures submitted by real employees.
Not asking what format the interview will take
Never assume that all interviews happen in the same way, especially if you’re changing career fields. In some sectors, certain styles of interviews are the status quo and recruiters (who have forgotten that this isn’t a universal method of interviewing) may not discuss the interview format unless asked. Interviewers for jobs in creative industries will often want to see a portfolio of your work, many writing jobs will require you to do a writing test, advertising and marketing jobs often involve some sort of creative task… and so on. Avoid getting caught short by asking whoever invites you to attend an interview two very simple questions: “What format will the interview take” and “Am I expected to bring or prepare anything”.
We really shouldn’t have to say this BUT it’s better to be overprepared than underprepared. Avoid being forced to ‘wing’ an interview by never accepting interview invitations with less than 48 hours’ notice. A company that respects its employees will appreciate that it’s pretty unacceptable to give candidates little-to-no notice for an interview… especially when dealing with a career changer.
In terms of preparation, you should always research three things: the company, the role and the person who will be interviewing you.
Not cleaning up your social media
These days, recruiters will Google candidates and check their social media profiles prior to an interview. If there are any unsavoury or controversial posts, pictures, videos or anything else associated with your accounts delete them and restrict public viewing access. Remember to examine your social media accounts with the mindset of a potential boss. While you may feel that an opinion you posted on a religious or political issue is justifiable, a potential employer will not give you an opportunity to provide the context needed to understand the intention behind any of your posts.
Flat out lying on your CV or cover letter
Everyone exaggerates on their CVs, and we’re not here to tell you if that’s the right or wrong thing to do. What we can say however is that you should always be able to back up anything you mention in your CV or at an interview. This means, while it’s one thing to fudge the dates of your employment a little or to give a diplomatic explanation for why you’re leaving a nightmare job, avoid blatant lies, such as claiming to have had responsibilities you didn’t have, changing your job title, passing off work experience/internships as more than they were, etc. You will get caught and it won’t be pretty.
Leaving your mobile phone turned on
Getting too familiar
Some interviewers can be extremely welcoming and charming, making you feel very at home. However, becoming too familiar can end up counting against you as it can be seen as unprofessional or cocky. Our advice? Be warm and pleasant, but save the hugs and banter for after your contract has been signed.
Speaking as if it’s a foregone conclusion
No matter how well an interview is going, remember to speak in hypotheticals to avoid being perceived as arrogant or unprofessional. Use conditional phrases, such as ‘If I was to get the job’. Ask the interviewer, “What would I be expected to work on” rather than “What will I be working on”. It’s a subtle difference, but it’s one that strongly influences if you’re perceived in a positive or negative light.
Not asking any questions at the end of an interview
Even if you have absolutely no questions to ask because everything has been covered in the interview, it’s always wise to have two questions up your sleeve. This shows that you’re interested in the role/interviewers and it gives you an opportunity to demonstrate that you are switched on and proactive. Come prepared with questions but be ready to adapt them as needed. Pay attention to points mentioned in the interview that you can pick up on at the end. Doing this is a great way of demonstrating your lateral thinking and initiative because you’ll be asking relevant follow-up questions rather than random questions you prepared days earlier. Also, take care to make sure you don’t ask a prepared question that has already been answered in the interview… that’s probably a worse move than asking no questions at all.
Did we miss any interview faux pas! Let us know your top tips in the comments below.
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